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Digital reference services in university libraries of Pakistan

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posted on 02.12.2014, 08:53 by Muhammad Younus
The development of information and communication technologies, and wide spread of the Internet and its associated technologies have brought about tremendous changes in the reference department of academic libraries, and in the attitudes and expectations of both information professionals and users. Many academic libraries across the globe have embraced Web technologies to fulfil users reference needs in a digital environment. This study aimed to investigate and analyse digital reference services (DRS) in university libraries in Pakistan. It focused on the nature and level of DRS, technologies used for the provision of the service, usage, staffing, marketing, funding, ICT infrastructure available for the service, and looked at the issues faced by academic libraries in implementing and managing the service. A mixed methods research approach combining both quantitative and qualitative methods was employed to achieve the aim and objectives of the study. The quantitative data for the study were collected through an online survey. A total of eighty five university libraries (both in public and private sectors) from all the four provinces, the federal capital and Azad Jammu & Kashmir participated in the survey. The quantitative data were supplemented by the qualitative data which were gathered through semi-structured interviews with the heads of fifteen leading university libraries. Findings suggest that DRS is at an early development stage in university libraries in Pakistan, with a small number of libraries offering the service. Most of the academic libraries which have implemented this cutting-edge service, are large libraries equipped with good human and technological resources. The libraries have mostly developed asynchronous digital reference systems by employing e-mail and web forms. The usage of the service is lower than that of in-person reference in academic libraries due to factors, such as libraries failure to effectively market the service, lack of ICT skills among users, lack of ICT facilities available for users. It was found that the libraries lack skilled and competent LIS professionals to staff the service. Factors contributing to the scarcity of skilled human resources in academic libraries include the lack of in-house training for DRS, shortage of continuing professional development courses in the country, and deficiencies in LIS curricula offered by the country s library schools. A number of issues which affect the implementation and management of DRS in academic libraries have been identified. They include: scarcity of competent human resources; access to appropriate digital resources; unavailability of suitable software for DRS; financial constraints; lack of ICT facilities; absence of a digital reference policy; lack of ICT application; paucity of resources; electricity supply; inadequate physical facilities; lack of local research and literature on DRS.


Higher Education Commission of Pakistan



  • Science


  • Information Science


© Muhammad Younus

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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